Peeling the Spanish onion

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blackcoffee
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Peeling the Spanish onion

Postby blackcoffee » Tue Aug 18, 2020 7:44 pm

Hi Everyone,

I've been reading here for inspiration and advice all summer as I've taken another stab at learning Spanish. It’s been about eight years since I last pursued Spanish, and although I got as far once as a fourth semester class at a community college, I never felt the listening comprehension click. I like languages, but have only ever felt successful at grammar and reading, never speaking and listening.

Some of the things I’ve been doing:

-- Pimsleur - nearing the end of level 3 - I can feel it stretching my working memory
-- Madrigal’s Magic Key - finished last week - Loved it
-- Anki - about 25% through a top 5000 words deck - I like the idea of it, but about 15 minutes a day is my max tolerance on actually doing it
-- Paged through about half of a regular textbook - I may return to it now that I finished MMK
-- Speechling - went through about half the nouns/verbs/adjectives with example sentences - may return to this soon
-- Podcasts - lots of dabbling, depending on time, interest, mood, how useful it feels
-- Reading - various school texts/easy readers
-- Reading-Listening: all of Harry Potter 1 in July, started Harry Potter 2 this week

I’ve been trying to load up on input and work on vocabulary, but I also want to work on output soon.

-- Find a tutor - As soon as I finish Pimsleur, if not sooner
-- Learn how to roll my RRs - supposedly it mostly takes practice but I need to actually do it!
-- Thinking of trying kwizig to fill some grammar holes, work on spelling and accents, etc.

I'm a 50 year old high school teacher and I don’t want to completely lose momentum when the school year starts, so I plan to update at least once a week.
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blackcoffee
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Re: Peeling the Spanish onion

Postby blackcoffee » Sun Aug 23, 2020 11:20 am

I kind of wish I had started a log earlier. I seemed to settle into several things that were working well together and kept plugging away, but I regret not taking a few notes along the way to refer back to, especially around ‘listening-reading.’

Sometime in the spring I first heard of and became fascinated with the idea of LR and wanted to try it. It seemed like part of what made it work was reading a lot in a short time, so I set a goal to read all of Harry Potter in the month of July. I used the audible recording and grabbed the English and Spanish versions available at the bookstore. So, a few notes on what I did and how it worked:

-- I can’t remember what I read where about the various techniques for LR, but I did read the links from the recent thread here. There were enough different accounts of how to do it that I figured I’d just wing it. I’m not claiming to have done it “correctly.”

-- I had some doubts about getting through the whole book in a month, so I just decided ahead of time to push through even if the process felt sloppy. I started out aiming for a chapter a day, reading the first 10 chapters in 11 days. I had an online conference mid-month when I did much less for a week, and then finished the book with two days to spare. My plan was to listen-read the whole thing again in the last two days. That part was a little disappointing. It ended up taking me four days to do and felt kind of tedious at times with little noticeable improvement over those last few days.

-- My basic process for each chapter was:
pre-read a chapter in L1 (I eventually did this less often)
Listen L2 - Read L1
Listen L2 - Read L2, noting as much as I could where the audio and text differed and words I didn’t know
Listen to bits of L2 and look up a million words (I rarely got even half-way through the chapter since I didn’t know soooo many words)
Listen L2 - Read L1 a second time

-- I was a little sceptical that I would actually be able to listen to L2 and read L1 at the same time. I have trouble reading L1 with background noise, especially if it’s conversation I can understand. If my SO is watching TV, for example, I have to get out of range to read anything that requires even slight concentration. This part was surprisingly easy! Most of the time I quickly read the chapter in English first before doing the LR so I would not be too distracted by the story and could concentrate on the L2. Eventually I didn’t feel the need to do this, though occasionally I still find myself focusing too much on reading L1 and so I pre-read a bit again.

-- Throughout the process, I found myself just trying to concentrate on what I was able to notice: words I recognized, which clauses went in what order compared to the English, often grammatical features I was doing in MMK, like noticing whether verbs were present/preterite/perfect. It was much easier to keep track of where I was in the English than I expected. When I lost my place, it was usually because I got distracted thinking too long about something I heard, or just regular old distraction.

-- After a little experimenting I found that listening at 80% speed allowed me to clearly hear the Spanish and also gave me enough time to process it enough to notice the language in a way that seemed helpful. I could pick out MUCH less at full speed. By about the 3rd time through I would bump it up to 90% and sometimes while taking a walk (not looking at the text) I would listen to previous chapters at full speed. I just needed to keep reminding myself to only focus on what I noticed and let the rest go.

-- Listening L2 and reading L2 at the same time was much harder. Even having just recently read the chapter in English, I found it hard to focus on the meaning as I both listened and read in L2. I ended up focusing mostly on just clearly hearing all the words, which I definitely can’t do at full speed. I do think this was a valuable step though because it made me aware of what the actual words were, i.e., how they were spelled, and to make a fleeting connection to what they sounded like in context. A lot of words were known or more easily understood once I saw them in print. I also observed more language features from seeing the L2 text, especially things like how prepositions and articles were used that I would not have caught just listening.

-- It was also distracting that there are a LOT of differences between the audio and text for book 1, ranging from several to many differences per page. (In contrast, I’ve listened to 3 chapters of book 2 so far and have found only two or three tiny differences.) For the most part the differences are things like using different words for “owl,” having words in a slightly different order, or verbs in different tenses. Hardly any of the differences are significant, but just noticing these differences and noting words I wanted to look up maxed out my brain power and left me with very little attention for what the overall meaning was. It’s really clear to me that Listening L2-Reading L1 is where the power is.

-- Looking up unknown vocab took forever. Mostly I looked up words or phrases using Reverso Context and kept a list in a notebook. I also made ad hoc extra sheets for thematic vocab as it seemed helpful, e.g., all the different words for types of speaking, lists of materials, verbs of motion, etc. I looked up very little grammar, but just kind of noticed it as I went along. I would re-listen to shorter sections as I did this.

-- Second Listen L2 Read L1 - At first I thought that subsequent listenings should get easier, but they never did. Basically I just noticed slightly different things and tried to fend off the frustration of “I JUST looked that up, why can’t I remember?”

tldr: I really like LR. It gives me CI at a level far above what I could otherwise read or listen to. I don’t know the “right way” to do it, but my brain was on fire noticing things, so it felt useful and I’ll keep doing it.
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blackcoffee
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Re: Peeling the Spanish onion

Postby blackcoffee » Mon Sep 07, 2020 11:32 am

Still plugging away, but more slowly, as expected.

Anki: about 35% through 5,000 word deck
Pimsleur: about halfway through level 4.
Harry Potter 2: on chapter 8

I spent way too long on the first three chapters, looking up every word and going on down some grammar byways. That was taking way too long, so now I move on to the next chapter after a few days regardless of how far I get with the vocabulary.

Sections of it are getting far easier. It’s a bit frustrating that more of the vocabulary isn’t sticking, so I’ve incorporated some review, re-reading and refreshing the vocabulary of a few pages of a previous chapter before starting a new one.

I had hoped to finish book 2 by the end of September, but that probably won’t happen at this rate. By the end of October, I should be finished with both this book and all of Pimsleur, which I’m getting a little weary of. I could never learn through Pimsleur alone, but it is making me do that tiny bit of output. Anyway, I just need to keep my head above water for now and just stay consistently moving forward. And remember to update every week.
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blackcoffee
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Re: Peeling the Spanish onion

Postby blackcoffee » Sun Sep 13, 2020 11:30 pm

Anki - check
Pimsleur - finished 4.20
Harry Potter 2 - one more listen through chapter 9 for tomorrow. I'm trying to do 15-30 minutes each morning and evening, but sometimes it's more like 5 min. I think it will pick up again once I get back into a work routine.
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blackcoffee
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Re: Peeling the Spanish onion

Postby blackcoffee » Sun Sep 20, 2020 11:29 pm

Well, still adjusting to back to school. I really miss being able to take a long walk every morning and evening. And there's less and less daylight already here in New England. I was listening to Pimsleur on my first walk of the day. I can't do it while driving, so I try to do it while walking after work, but I've already missed a couple days this week. I'm still spending at least an hour a day, but what I really like is a relaxed puttering mode that I can only do on weekends.

Anki: still going, though I've been so busy I missed a day without even realizing it. I also got a frequency dictionary (Davies, 2nd ed.). The list isn't exactly the same as the Anki one I've been using, but it gives me example sentences, lets me look at word families, and track down some of those annoying synonyms. I started going through the list from the beginning (I have Anki set on random), and looking up the verbs in the "big red verb book" I have. This allows me to at least notice which verbs are stem changing or have spelling idiosyncrasies and to see a half dozen sample sentences with various uses. The most common verbs have lots of extra examples. This feels so much more worthwhile than just flipping though words that are mostly similar to English or Latin. I spent a good while this weekend looking at uses of "hablar" since Davies gave the example sentence for "te:" "?No te han hablado?" This caught my attention because I'd only remembered seeing hablar used when talking "con alguien." I did find more examples of pronouns used with hablar, but mostly plural in the sense of "with each other) and none with "te" so far.

Pimsleur: finished 4.24, a little bored with it and determined to finish it all by the end of October

Harry Potter 2: on chapter 11. It goes back and forth between feeling easier and the opposite. Sometimes I listen to chapters I've previously read in the car, and while I'm not trying to focus constantly, I think it helps some.
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blackcoffee
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Re: Peeling the Spanish onion

Postby blackcoffee » Sat Oct 10, 2020 3:18 pm

I haven't been good about posting updates, but I'm still moving forward. I think this past Thursday was the first day since late April that I did do any Spanish at all.

Anki - only missed a few days, not much time for rabbit trails

Pimsleur - 5.17 this morning, I've also gone back and started reviewing the phrases from the beginning. finished units 1 and 2 so far.

Harry Potter 2: I listened ahead a few chapters and found, to no surprise at all, that I'm missing a lot, then last weekend I LR the last several chapters together. I didn't do much during the week, so I'd like to finish it up this coming week. My current method is make at least three passes through each chapter: listen - read English; listen - read Spanish and make some vocab notes; listen - read English again. I also often listen to chunks of old or current chapters but don't track it. I still have to do the last two chapters in Spanish and the last four again in English.

I'm listening at 100% speed now when I'm just listening or listening with English text. When I try to follow the Spanish text at the same time I slow it down to .9, or even .8 if I'm tired. I feel like I'm distinguishing sounds fairly well, but I'm not processing quickly enough, especially trying to read and listen both in Spanish.

I might take an interlude and browse/read through some other things, but I plan to continue with book 3. I'm toying with the idea of just doing pure LR one time, straight through. Also thinking about getting the Spanish book on kindle and seeing how that goes.
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Re: Peeling the Spanish onion

Postby blackcoffee » Sat Nov 28, 2020 1:25 am

I thought I would update this log more often, but I usually tell myself I'll wait until I hit some milestone or other and then just don't get to it. But finally:

Pimsleur - finished ages ago; felt pretty helpful, but now I feel like I'm missing any kind of output'

Anki - more than 55% mature, keeping to 15-20 minutes a day

Harry Potter - finished book 3, audio only. I still listened to most chapters more than once, but no real system and didn't read the Spanish at all or take any notes. Sometimes it feels like it's getting easier, sometimes not. I started book 4 this weekend and would like to finish the whole series by next summer. It's kind of become it's own little project for me to complete the series, so the sooner the better. I never read the last book in English. I was too busy/couldn't get into it and felt like I had forgotten a lot of details in the years between books. I guess it just feels like a gap I've wanted to fill but never enough to actually reread the whole series. L-R makes me feel like I'm doing something "productive" enough to bother in the first place, and it also requires just the right amount of mental concentration. It doesn't quite feel like "studying" but it requires more focus than reading in English. I haven't been able to get into reading much of anything just for fun in English in awhile. L-R lets me procrastinate on other things but gives me constant little hits of accomplishment (as well as frustration). So, I'm aiming to finish book 4 by the end of year.

FSI Basic Spanish - just started today - not fully committed yet. At maybe an hour or two a week it will take a long time.

Catford on Phonetics - still want to read this, still on chapter 2. Chapter 3 seems like it will go well with the pronunciation focus of the beginning of FSI. Maybe a few pages a week.
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MorkTheFiddle
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Re: Peeling the Spanish onion

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Sat Nov 28, 2020 7:04 pm

First of all, congratulations on your dogged determination, IMHO paramount for learning another language. Others may differ.
This post clarified for me whether you had read HP before doing LT. Maybe you said so and I just missed it. I mention this because I tried LT with Norwegian with a book I had not read before, and it did not go well. Recently I tried a translation of HP never having read HP before, and before the end of the first page I was totally lost and dropped the project. Also interesting to me are your comments on ANKI and on Pimsleur. I will also be curious to see how it goes with FSI.
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blackcoffee
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Re: Peeling the Spanish onion

Postby blackcoffee » Sun Nov 29, 2020 1:03 am

I probably didn't mention that I had read most of the books before. It's probably been 20 years for most of them though, so I remember the basic plot and characters, but not many details. The basic familiarity helps tremendously, but there's a lot that feels 'new' as well.

I'd never heard of L-R before this spring, and was just amazed that it was even possible to listen to one language while reading another. Really, though, I think it works best when you are either very familiar with the text in L1 or if you pre-read sections. I had trouble getting started with book 4 and after a few false starts I ended up reading the first chapter in English first and then listening/re-listening to it a bit at a time. I even looked up several words, which I barely did at all for book 3. I enjoy going through at "puttering" speed sometimes, but then there are chapters that are easier and I don't need to pre-read or re-listen much at all. All in all, I just remind myself to focus on what I DO pick up and not worry about what I don't.

The Harry Potter series has some advantages for L-R in terms of availability of audio, level of text, and sheer quantity of words, etc., but I was also drawn to doing it based on the experience of a student of mine who said she learned English from reading Harry Potter. Her family is French speaking, but she used Spanish in school through the 8th grade in Costa Rica. Her English was extraordinarily good for a 9th grader who just moved to the US, so I was asking her about how she learned it. She said she had had English classes in school for many years, but in her opinion she really learned English from reading Harry Potter. She didn't listen to the books, but just read the whole series in English about four times between ages seven and eleven. I'm sure there are many factors involved, but she really did seem to have learned mostly from reading. Her family watches very little TV, so unsurprisingly she would often mispronounce words or not recognize words she knew when she first heard them. Anyway, this story was part of my inspiration for reading HP, though it's not something most kids are into these days.
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Re: Peeling the Spanish onion

Postby tungemål » Sun Nov 29, 2020 4:34 pm

I think reading is important. When you have read a couple of "real" books in the language, you are at another level. I remember back to how I learned English. We had of course 7 years of English in school, but I was not really comfortable with English before I started using it for real. I decided when I was 16 to begin reading for pleasure in English, and that increased my vocabulary and advanced my level. Later as an exchange student (in the Netherlands) I had to use English every day for communication, and after a month or two I finally started to become comfortable knowing that I could express myself in English without problems. I am also a high school teacher, and my students's English level is much higher than what mine was almost 30 years ago - they are completely natural speaking English.

At the moment I study Spanish, and I have concentrated on developing listening skills the past 5 months as I find that challenging but a very necessary skill. I also read a book, but I tend to procrastinate.
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